After the excellent Dracula directed by Tod Browning, we continue this retrospective UNIVERSAL MONSTERS (our retrospective: HERE) with a film regarded as one of the most important of the series, as its sequel. Frankenstein, directed by James Whale, is a film in which the cultural heritage is impressive as it is cited in the later versions, or even in other works (notably in the excellent the Spirit of the Beehive). Mainly known for his few feature-length films of wars, the stage director, u.s. is seen to offer the possibility to realise their projects in total freedom without that production, that is to say, the studio Universal, not the crops. From there was born the monument of gothic horror that is Frankenstein, risk-taking total and ultimately paid for by the producer Carl Laemmle Jr. Work with atypical in many respects, the movie turns out to be a power-mad, largely at the height of his reputation.

Since its introduction, Frankenstein is surprising and stands as a work of a very special. Between a clip opening to become cult, in which a man is addressed directly to the public by notifying them of the shock that may cause the movie, and a mysterious question mark in place of the name of Boris Karloff in the credits, the film surprises from the outset. The approach of Universal and James Whale would have seemed vain to see pretentious, though the film did not prove from the first seconds that he deserves all these epithets and these mysteries. The first plans, absolutely sublime enough to the viewer so that he understands the scope of the work to which he or she attends. Rupert Julian, with the Phantom of The Opera, or even Tod Browning and its staging of engineering managed by their realization, of transcending them, in adorning of symbolism all their sequences and their visual biases, but James Whale goes even further and offers us a film that transcends entertainment to become a genuine aesthetic reflection on its themes. If the previous films in the series UNIVERSAL MONSTERS may boast of being impeccable in terms of staging and photography, Frankenstein sets the bar even a little higher up, and instantly becomes one of the works of the most impressive that I have ever seen. In terms of photography, composition of the frames making each plan a pure table, art direction or cutting, James Whale directed a masterpiece, but its greatest strength is, without doubt, in the use he makes of this power visual. Its ability to create strong images, allows him to avoid the redundancy that could taint the discourse of the work, and the director understands very quickly that a cross or a grim reaper well placed in the frame are more equivocal than a long speech. The economy of dialogue and the use of silence complement the mood of the film, which is already phenomenal as the staging captivates and impresses.

Frankenstein is also pays for the luxury of being written, so very smart, and despite its short length, manages to raise the pressure around the creature, magnificently interpreted by a Boris Karloff unrecognizable. If we could, and the fear of a difficult beginning, long to start as the mystery and anticipation around the monster is great, there is finally nothing, and the entire first half of the work, focused on the men, is exciting. This is due, of course, to the characterization copy of each character and the involvement of the actors, directed to perfection, but also to the ability of James Whale to create issues powerful and addictive. In fact, Frankenstein succeeds in 70 minutes to create a story with far more feeling, more attachment to the characters and their fate, and, above all, more daring that what Paul Leni in the Man who laughs in almost two hours. The narrative is fluid, ambitious and staged to perfection. But even more than this photograph to fall, or that the intelligence in the writing, and Frankenstein will surprise you with its hard-line position and its audacity. We could evoke the traumatic scene of the encounter between the creature and a child, become absolutely worship, or even the various dead, all staged to mark the spectator. But one scene is according to me more representative of the greatness of the film ; this long dolly shot, absolutely brilliant, on the father entering the village cheering. This plan is one of those that haunts you for days after the viewing, which testifies of a real author behind the camera and a producer who, away from the censor, adjusts its bias to make this eccentricity is a force for artistic and commercial – let’s go back to the clip opening. In this sense, Carl Laemmle Jr , bears a great responsibility in the success of the film, the production copy and the freedom granted to James Whale that enabled the latter to realize a true masterpiece. This retrospective never ceases to amaze me, and access to a level of quality that I didn’t even know in the beginning. Frankenstein is a monument, a testimony of the confidence and respect that existed between Universal and its directors. A great movie, on all the points.

”the film’s Universal becomes an instant classic made to perfection”

I don’t see any reproach to make to the film of James Whale, if this is one, very selfish of my part to want to do more ; Frankenstein could have lasted three more hours, without creating the slightest trouble. In addition to building a myth by featuring a Boris Karloff imperial, the film’s Universal becomes an instant classic made to perfection and a witness of the artistic relationship between Carl Laemmle Jr and the makers of the studio. Film reputation ultimately well-deserved, Frankenstein raises the series UNIVERSAL MONSTERS at a level of quality unexpected and I can’t wait to watch its sequel, the Bride of Frankenstein, which is known to be at least as good as the first film. But first, I’ll see you in a few days for the criticism of The Mummy, directed by Karl Freund !


Your opinion ?

The Light Festival, will take place from 8 to 16 October 2016, dan stous the cinemas of the grand Lyon.

– programming

– our coverage

– our retrospective UNIVERSAL MONSTERS


Original title : Frankenstein

Achievement : James Whale

Scenario : Garrett Fort, Robert Florey and Francis Edward Faragoh

Main actors : Colin Clive, Boris Karloff, Mae Clarke

Country of origin : United States

Released : 1931

Duration : 1: 11

Distributor : Universal Pictures

Synopsis : Henry Frankenstein, a young scientist, wants to create life artificially. He fashioned a human body from pieces of corpses. But instead of provide him with a healthy brain, his assistant, Fritz, he provides the one of a killer.



1923 – Our lady of Paris (★★★★☆)

“an excellent way for Universal to establish itself as a studio major”

1925 – The phantom of the opera (★★★★☆)

“a nugget of visual and omen yet beautiful things for the rest of the series”

1928 – The man who laughs (★★★☆☆)

“not a bad movie, but it could have been much more”
1931 – Dracula (★★★★★)

“Tod Browning performs a major work, whether on the movie or pure on the representation of Dracula on the big screen”
1931 – Frankenstein (★★★★★)

“an instant classic made to perfection”
1932 – The mummy (★★★★☆)

“a first film is flawed, awkward, but who let themselves be viewed with pleasure and even paying the luxury of moving his audience”

1933 – The invisible man (★★★★☆)

“the director tackles the themes of power and greed without concession and multiplies the sequences challenging morally”

1935 – The bride of Frankenstein (★★★★★)

“The work of James Whale stands out as the jewel ultimate of a series absolutely fascinating”

1941 – The Wolf man (★★★☆☆)

“THE LOUP-GAROU is still a film to see, registering visually and thematically, the continuity of the Universal Monsters, and who will enthrall you with the time an hour”

1954 – The creature from the black lagoon (★★★★★)

Jack Arnolds carries a film of great intelligence and an audacity all making honors the early masterpieces of the series, while creating his own myth”

Category: Uncategorized

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